AN: Happy Holidays to those of you who celebrate! Keep an eye out this weekend for a special EPOV covering Chapter 31 & 32!




Bella groaned and tried to clear the fog from her brain. Her arms were sore and her head was throbbing. She yawned and blinked slightly, trying to take in her surroundings. As she shifted in an attempt to sit up, her arms refused to move. Panicking, her heart began to race and she popped her eyes wide open. She looked around and found herself lying on a leather couch, her arms immobilized behind her back. After trying to move her hands without success, she ascertained that they were tied or bound together. She shifted and rolled onto her side, gazing around the room.

It was richly furnished with dark decor and, even though the temperature was cool, she felt a drop of sweat drip down her head and across one of her ears. There was an enormous bay window, which had a beautiful view of a forest that looked to be surrounding the house. Her hopes of escaping slowly dwindled as that thought filtered through her brain.

She wriggled her hands and tried to shift into a sitting position, when she was suddenly lifted to her feet. Cold, hazel eyes glared at her menacingly.

"Hello, sunshine," he murmured.

"What- Where am I? What are you going to do with me?" she asked in a frightened voice.

James cocked his head to the side slightly and smirked. "I haven't quite figured that out yet. I foolishly didn't think of a back-up plan, so now I have to wing it."

He pushed her onto the couch so that she fell into a sitting position again, and she tried to ignore the burning in her shoulders. Suddenly, a door somewhere slammed and James looked towards the entrance at the far side of the room they were currently occupying. Storming inside, her cloud of red hair flying wildly like she was in the middle of a hurricane, was Victoria. She stopped in her tracks and glanced at Bella with a shocked expression.

"What is she doing here?" Victoria asked. Her eyes grew wide and settled on her lover before her facial expression turned grim. "What have you done?"

James smiled and spread out his hands in an open gesture. "It seems that Miss Swan here has a big mouth and a big nose."

Sneering, he turned to Bella. "Didn't you ever hear about how curiosity killed the cat? You should have left."

As he continued to speak, his actions grew more agitated and he started to pull at the ends of his short blond hair. "Fuck!" he yelled, banging one of his palms against his forehead. "What do we do now?"

Victoria stepped over to stop his pacing and placed a hand on his shoulder. "What happened, James?" she asked in a calm, soothing voice.

"I handed her the custody petition and she ran off, like we planned for. But when I went to get the elevator, she was in there and attacked me. She knows, Victoria," he hissed. "She threatened to go to Cullen and spill everything that we've been trying to hide. She came at me, and I accidentally knocked her out. I didn't know what to do with her, so I brought her here and tied her hands."

Victoria sighed and looked down at Bella with a gaze that was part sympathy and part disgust. "It really would have been much simpler if you would have disappeared when I first tried to rattle you."

Bella's temper flared, but she bit her tongue, recognizing the precarious situation she was in. She took a deep breath in through her nose before responding.

"Did you honestly think that I'd just hand my son over to you? You may not know what love is Victoria, but I do. I love them both with all of my heart."

"You weren't supposed to leave the boy," Victoria responded incredulously. "You were supposed to take him and run. Your presence here is what complicated everything. We could have gone on with our lives as they were, but bringing Jackson back ruined everything."

"What do you mean?" Bella exclaimed. "How did bringing Jack back here ruin anything? You didn't have to step back into the picture."

Victoria walked closer and ran a sharp nail down Bella's cheek in warning. "Yes, I did. Once he got over the shock of knowing that his son was still alive, Edward came to James to file a lawsuit against me for endangering the boy's life. After the Gala, James was sure that the boy recognized him, so we had to find a way to remove the two of you from the equation."

"But why abandon Jack in the first place? Why not leave him with his family and run off with James? How could you have done that? Don't you have a heart at all?" Bella's voice pleaded in anguish.

Victoria's face softened just a bit. "It was never my intention to abandon the boy. I was high and simply misplaced him." Her eyes cut over to James briefly, before continuing. "We had a spat right before he went to visit his parents in Seattle. I didn't want to leave things the way they were, so I made up a bogus trip about visiting my mother. I was nervous, so I decided to find a dealer and get high. I don't remember all that happened until I couldn't find Jackson and I called James, panicking. He picked me, and we went to look for the brat, but he was nowhere to be found. So he got me to my mother's house, and the rest is history."

Bella's heart ached for her son, knowing that his birth mother truly hadn't cared for his well being at all.

"Why didn't you report him missing in Seattle? They would have found him sooner."

Victoria scoffed. "Really, Isabella? And risk my darling husband finding out that I lied about where I was? With one of his best friends? Are you mad?"

"So your tryst with Bobby Brown here was more important than your son?" Bella asked, her voice laced with venom.

Victoria raised a perfectly arched brow and simply nodded. "As I've said before, I never wanted to be a mother anyway."

Bella felt her stomach turn and bile rise up her throat in anger and disgust towards the other woman. "You're a real piece of work, you know that?"

Victoria rolled her eyes and focused back on James. "So what now, Jimmy? Do you have a plan?"

His cold eyes burned a hole through Bella, whose panic was increasing with every second that ticked away on the clock.

"Kill her." His voice was cold and emotionless.

Victoria's eyes widened in shock. "What? Are you out of your mind? We can't kill her!"

"Why not?" he asked, sounding like a child who was just told no by his parent.

"Because- because- because," Victoria stuttered, trying to find the right words as to not incense him. "It's murder, James! We'll go to jail!"

"No, we can cover it up. Spin a believable lie."

Bella's heart started to race and her eyes darted around, trying to think of a way out of this mess. James was clearly deranged and she couldn't leave in Victoria's hands all her hopes that she'd get out of this mess. She decided to try and talk her way out of it.

"Edward will know, James. I was supposed to meet him for lunch. Gianna saw me. He'll put two and two together."

James tapped his chin in thought before nodding. "You're right, he will. We'll need to speed this up. Vicki, watch her for a moment." He turned and strode purposefully from the room.

Victoria flew at Bella, pushing her forward as the other girl struggled.

"Stop it!" Victoria whispered. "Unless you want to fucking die, then keep right on fighting me."

Bella ceased to move and felt Victoria's hands pulling at the knot in the rope around her wrists. "Why are you helping me?" she asked in confusion.

"I may be a shitty mother, but I'm not a killer, Bella. We've got to get out of here. He's come unhinged."

"Really, Vicki? Is that what you think of me?" James voice echoed throughout the room.

Victoria froze just as the knot slipped away and Bella felt her hands come loose. She fought the fire in her shoulders and kept her hands together so that James wouldn't realize that she was free. Victoria's ice blue eyes were large with fear as she turned to face her lover.

"James," she replied, imploringly. "It's not what it sounded like."

His eyes were hard with no small amount of wildness swirling around in them. "Really? I didn't just hear you say that I'm unhinged?"

Victoria attempted to smile, but failed and could only bring forth a grimace. "I was just trying to gain Bella's trust, baby. You know I'm on your side."

He pulled out a gun from behind his back and looked it over pensively. "Since when is she Bella to you, Vicki?"

Victoria's face paled and she started to stutter. "Uh, she's not James. You must have misheard me. I said Isabella, didn't I?"

He cocked his head to the side and eyed her curiously. "Why are you lying to me, Victoria?"

"I'm not, Jimmy. I swear!" she pleaded with him.

With a sudden movement, his arm swung forward and a loud bang echoed through the house. A sound that was a cross between a scream and a groan wrenched itself from Victoria's mouth. Her hands clutched at her stomach and viscous crimson began to seep through her fingers. She raised one blood-stained hand and looked at it in horror.

"James?" she murmured in disbelief. "You- How could you-" her words were cut off by another bang and Bella felt something hot and wet hit her cheek as she turned her head away from the bloody scene.

James sighed and placed the gun back into his waistband before walking over and kneeling next to Victoria's prone body. He reverently brushed back her hair and smiled sadly.

"Oh, Vicky. I'm going to miss you so much," he whispered.

Seeing a moment of opportunity, Bella launched herself off the chair and out of the room. Knowing that there was no place for her to run and probably nowhere that she could hide where he wouldn't find her, she set off to find the next best thing - a weapon. Sliding into a large stainless steel kitchen, she found just that in the form of a rack of pots and pans hanging above an island in the center of the room. She quickly pulled down a large and heavy frying pan and hefted it over her shoulder, moving towards the door at the opposite end of the room. As she eased it open, she found herself facing a flight of stairs leading upwards. Just as she placed one foot on the bottom stair, she heard James's voice coming closer.

"Isabellllllla," he sang out. "Come out, come out, wherever you are."

She turned and flew up the stairs as fast as her feet would carry her. The hallway was dark and she couldn't see much until her eyes adjusted a few moments later. There were a series of doors on her left. She ducked into one quickly when she heard his voice coming up the stairwell. It was a small bedroom with no closet. She ran over to the window and looked down at the three story drop with nothing in sight to cushion her fall, in case she jumped. Visions of her broken and mangled body danced across her eyes. Hide or jump - and break something or possibly die? She swallowed the lump in her throat and lowered herself to the floor, squeezing underneath the bed. It was a lose/lose situation, no matter how she looked at it.

She laid on her back and stared up at the underside of the mattress, trying to regulate her breathing. The quiet of the room was broken as the door squeaked open slowly. She held her breath and her heart started to hammer. Her grip on the pan tightened and felt her nails dig into the soft flesh of her palm.

"Bella!" a far-off voice called. "James! Where are you?"

Relief instantly flooded her system at the sound of Edward's voice.

"Sonofa-" James muttered and turned back into the hall.

Dread and fear shot up her spine. James had a gun and Edward was more than likely unarmed. The man had had a psychotic break down and shot his girlfriend to death. Edward stood no chance. With her heart still in her throat, she eased herself out from under the bed and listened at the door, hearing nothing.

"Where is she?" she heard Edward holler. "Don't stare at me like that, James! Where the fuck is she?"

Knowing that Edward had no idea what kind of danger he was in, Bella flung the door open and quickly made her way downstairs, as quietly as she could.

"SHUT UP!" James screamed. Bella stole through the kitchen and peaked into the study where she had woken up. Edward stood with his arms up and his eyes wide at the sight of James pointing the gun at him.

"James, calm down, man. Put the gun down. You don't want to shoot me," Edward said in a smooth, quiet voice.

"You don't know shit, Edward! You never did!"

"What are you talking about?"

"You, Mr. Perfect. You came from money and a loving family. You had the perfect girl, and you blew it all away. And for what? A kid?"

Edward's face clouded with confusion. "I don't understand. Just what did I blow away? A relationship with a woman who didn't give a shit about me? You're damn right I chose my kid first. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

"You've always been a pussy, Edward. She needed someone to love her, and I could."

"Pussy?" Edward snarled. "Who's the one who's not man enough to face me without a weapon? Who's the one who killed the woman he claimed to love?"

James's gaze shot down to Victoria's body and Bella saw her chance. She rushed into the room and swung the pan with all of her strength against the back of his head. The gun clattered to the floor and James fell to one knee, grasping his wound. His furious eyes turned on her before lunging. She was knocked down to the ground, the wind taken out of her sails. The sounds of fighting were drowned out by the sound of blood rushing to her ears as her head bounced off the hardwood floor. When she opened her eyes a moment later, Victoria's lifeless sapphire ones stared back at her vacantly. Bella gasped and jerked away, her hand slipping and sliding in a puddle of vibrant ruby blood.

When she was able to pull herself into a kneeling position, she saw Edward on top of James, punching him viciously. James quickly knocked his former friend off of him and brought his knee up to connect with Edward's groin. Bella's eyes scanned the room quickly and her eyes connected with the shiny black Glock .45. She scrambled over and picked the gun up, before standing and taking aim directly at James.

"Get off of him," she yelled.

James froze and turned, his eyes zeroing on the gun in her hand. "You won't do it. I bet you've never even been that close to a gun before, pretty girl," he taunted her smugly.

She aimed the gun a little higher than his head and fired off a warning shot, which cracked the large window.

"Try me, asshole. My father's a police chief. Trust me, I know how to handle a gun."

She stepped closer to Edward as he maneuvered himself to his knees. James made a movement and Bella aimed the gun straight at his head.

"On your knees and put your hands on your head," she growled.

James scowled, but did as he was told. Sirens could be heard in the distance, growing closer. She wanted to rush to Edward's side and check on him, but her gaze remained steady on James. When the flashing lights of police cars were seen through the windows, James began to visibly panic. He launched at Bella out of the blue, causing the gun to go off, firing into the ceiling. James attempted to grab her, but she elbowed him in the gut and cracked him hard on the head with the butt of the gun. His body slumped to the ground in a heap and she fell to her knees, adrenaline coursing through her veins.

Bella turned her head slightly and met Edward's gaze for the first time since she left him at LaGuardia. He was struggling to his feet when his gaze connected with hers, his eyes the most verdant green against red rims. The relief radiating off him ripped right through her completely. Looking at him now, guilt weighed heavily on her shoulders for ever doubting him, even for the slightest moment. She stood slowly and stumbled into his arms.

"Oh, God, Edward," she sobbed, burying her head into his chest.

"Sssh, it's okay, baby. I've got you," he whispered into her hair.

She closed her eyes and breathed in his scent, starting to shake like a leaf as the adrenaline began to wear off. A loud crash was heard as the police broke down the front door.

"Everybody, freeze!"

Bella clutched Edward tighter, refusing to let him go.

"Put your hands where we can see them!"

Edward slowly released Bella and raised his hands. As she moved to do the same, a wave of vertigo hit her and she felt herself begin to fall. He quickly caught her and she heard him ask for a paramedic before words started to jumble together and she had to fight to keep her eyes open.

A medic flashed a light in her eyes as Edward stayed out of their way, speaking with an officer. Words continued to mesh together, not making sense. Concussion. Shock. Words continued to swirl.

She closed her eyes and let darkness take her under.




Bella drifted in and out of consciousness during the ambulance ride to the hospital. She heard a man speaking rapidly during one of her more lucid moments.

"I placed an 18 gauge in her right arm and have a liter of saline going through it. Her pressure was low upon arrival, but we don't see any obvious injury."

"Is there blunt force trauma?" she heard another voice say, seeming distant, like her ears were clogged with plugs.

"Look! Her eyes are open. Miss Swan? Can you hear me?" a woman's nasally voice assaulted her eardrums.

She closed her eyes and drifted back off.

A few hours later, she slowly became aware of an irritating beeping noise. She attempted to blink, but her eyelids felt heavy and dry. Her head throbbed and her entire body ached as if she had been in a fight with Emmett over the last piece of cake. When she opened her eyes, she immediately closed them once again, blocking out the bright light. On her second attempt, she went slower, adjusting her eyes to the light.

She gazed lazily around the room, still feeling slightly woozy and nauseous. Her eyes landed on Edward, slumped in an uncomfortable-looking recliner, sound asleep. The monitor attached to her chest began to beep quicker as her heart rate accelerated. The noise jerked him awake and he looked over at her in panic. His eyes widened and he smiled brightly when he saw that she was awake.

"Bella," he whispered, before standing quickly and making his way to the side of her bed.

"Ed-" she started to say, but broke off when her voice sounded scratchy. "What happened?" she croaked.

He reached out and gently stroked her hair. "You have a concussion, but you're going to be just fine," he murmured with no small amount of relief.

"What happened to James?" she asked, worried.

Edward smiled sadly. "He's in police custody. They're charging him with kidnapping, assault and murder. He won't be getting out of there anytime soon. How are you? Does your head hurt?"

She blinked and winced as she attempted to nod. Edward reached over and pressed the call button for the nurse on duty. After a few moments of just watching each other in silence, Carlisle walked into the room with a small dark haired woman.

"Hello, Miss Swan," the woman said cheerfully. "I'm Emily, the nurse on duty. Let's get you checked out, dear."

As the woman went on with her job of checking Bella's vitals, Carlisle stepped forward and smiled kindly at her.

"How are you feeling, dear?"

Bella shrugged one shoulder slightly. "My head hurts and everything aches."

Carlisle nodded thoughtfully. "That sounds about right. You have a mild concussion, but your CAT scans show nothing worrisome. We'll keep you here for observation overnight, and you should be good to go home tomorrow."

"Thank you, Carlisle," she responded gratefully.

He waved her off and smiled. "Bella, you're like my daughter and there's nothing I wouldn't do for my family," he responded sincerely.

She felt tears prick her eyes and she blinked them away. The nurse patted her leg gently as Bella let out a yawn.

"Ok, sweetheart. I'll be right out in the hall, just press the button if you need anything. Try and get some rest."

Carlisle quietly thanked Emily before saying his own goodbyes, needing to get home to Esme and Jack. At the sound of her son's name, Bella's heart started to race.

"Sssh, he's fine, Bella," Edward said soothingly. "Calm down, love."

She took a deep breath in through her nose and sighed. "Is he okay? Does he know what happened?"

Edward hesitated before shaking his head. "No, I was waiting until you woke up before calling him to let him know that we weren't coming home tonight. I didn't want to worry him any more than necessary."

Bella squeezed his hand, letting him silently know that she agreed with his decision. "It's okay, I understand."

After a quick call to Jack, explaining just the basics that his mom hit her head and was in the hospital, Edward pulled the chair closer to the bed and laid his head next to Bella's leg. He looked up at her with his sad, green eyes.

"Today was one of the worst days of my life," he said in a soft, quiet voice. "I- I don't know what I'd do without you, Bella."

Her heart ached and tears welled up in her eyes to match his own.

"I'm so sorry, Edward," she sobbed slightly. "I never should have run in the first place or provoked him like that."

"Why did you leave, Bella? In the elevator's security video, you were clearly angry and upset."

"Security video? Is that how you found me?"

He nodded, still looking heartbroken. She swallowed and gathered her nerves.

"When James came out of your office, he basically told me that you were only sleeping with me to get custody of Jack."

He sat up and his eyes widened in shock. "And you believed him?" he asked incredulously.

She shook her head. "No, not at first, but then he showed me a court document where you were petitioning for sole custody of Jack. I didn't think; I just felt my heart breaking. So I ran, but not five minutes passed before I forced myself to listen to reason. I made the decision to come back and talk to you before the elevator even hit the ground floor."

He leaned back and sighed, closing his eyes. She felt like he was pulling away from her and it made her chest feel heavy. The worst part was that she couldn't blame him in the least.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered brokenly.

His eyes popped open and he stood up, leaning over the bed rail to cup her cheek.

"Ssh, no crying. It's been a long day, and we're both exhausted. We'll talk more tomorrow, but for now, try to rest."

She nodded and few fat tears dripped down her cheeks. Edward used his thumbs to gently wipe them away, before leaning down and kissing her sweetly.

"Oh, thank God, you're okay," he breathed against her lips. "When I watched that tape, I could have killed him."

She reached her arms around carefully and hugged him as tightly as she could. She scooted over and motioned for him to lay next to her.

"I don't think that's a good idea, Bella. I don't want to hurt you."

"Please? Just until I fall asleep. I want you to hold me," she pleaded with sad eyes.

He smiled and sighed, before lowering the bed rail and curling up next to her on his side. He gently wrapped his arms around her and kissed her forehead.

"It'll be okay," he whispered against her hair. She closed her eyes and let herself drift off to sleep peacefully, his scent filling her lungs.




AN: Not too bad, see? Major drama didn't last long. I've always planned for Victoria to die, so I hope I did it justice. Please let me know what you thought of it! As an interesting aside, I'll be writing an Outtake in her POV (covering several parts of the story) for The Fandom Against Domestic Violence fundraiser. It should be pretty interesting.

I posted my o/s, Adeste Fideles, which I wrote for the Southern FanFiction Review's Countdown to Christmas. Check it out if you'd like! I think it's a sweet little homecoming story with a bit of lemon zest. =)